- by Alyson Shane
I got into a pretty bad accident on my bike today.
I hit a pothole and flew over my handlebars and skidded along the road on my head.
My eyebrow is split open and I have a concussion, and earlier I could barely walk or understand what was going on.
Thank god I was wearing my helmet.
I’ve been in the ER for eight hours, and here are some things I’ve seen:
A man in a wheelchair pleading towards the nurses' station, saying
“Please nurse, my chest hurts.
Please help me, nurse”
and nobody helping him right now,
because they can’t
they have no beds for him.
A grandma on her phone,
blind, also in a wheelchair
telling her son that she’s been here since 8:30 AM
(st was 5 PM when she made that call.)
A young woman curled in a chair
feet tucked up under her
she asks the nurse for a blanket and the nurse tells her
they don’t give them out here
the girl starts crying
“I’ve been here since 2:30 PM” she wails
(she asked for a blanket around 6 PM.)
A man lying on the ground
on the “Covid symptom side” of the room
under a blanket, shaking
he was here when I got here at 4 PM
It’s 12:25 AM now.
All the while nurses
and other hospital staff
have been running around
back and forth
stressed and tired
their eyes weary above their masks
doing their best to keep up
but it’s not enough.
There isn’t enough funding
not enough staff
not enough beds
to help everyone.
The hospital up the road from my house used to have an ER,
used to take some off the heat off HSC
but the Conservative government closed it a few years ago
and this scene is what we’re left with.
This is what happens when we defund health care.
This is what happens when we vote for Conservatives.
This is what happens when we look at people as dollars and cents
and not human beings who get sick
and get hurt
and need care.
And this is just one night when I happen to be here
for 8+ hours
to tell you about what I’m seeing.
Imagine what it’s like being here
trying to give all these people
timely, high-quality care
and being unable to
because the health care system you’re a part of
is stretching you
and everyone here
to the limit
support our nurses
support health care workers
I was finally seen after 9.5/10 hours of waiting in the ER. A huge THANK YOU to the staff at HSC who took care of me and everyone else who was there yesterday. You're heroes and you deserve better than this broken, gutted, and under-funded system you're forced to operate within. I see you, and I appreciate you.
- by Alyson Shane
We’ve been in the new house full-time for just over two weeks by this point I guess
give or take a day or two
time has no meaning these days it seems.
Technically “the house across the street” has been ours since the first of August but since our lease wasn’t up we spent the month
occasionally replacing lights
switching doors around
junking leftover furniture
but mostly painting
until the whole house from top to bottom didn’t look like
A House We’d Bought
but instead looked like
A Home We’d Made Together.
Once we had our bed moved over we swaddled up the cats and ran them across the street (which they hated) and spent a sleepless night with them huddled up in the bedroom as they cried and got stressed and made those weird yowling, almost-human sounds that cats make sometimes.
It took them a while but they're getting used to the place
even though I don't know if I have?
Every morning I wake up in my bright, third-storey bedroom and walk downstairs, then downstairs again and after spending most of the last decade of my life in one or two-bedroom apartments our house with its five bedrooms and sunrooms and den and library and dining room and everything else
What do you mean, my office isn't in a basement?
I have a whole room to make art in?
I have a kitchen that's big enough for two people to cook without bumping into each other?
Some days it still feels like I'm a kid living in my parent's house, or staying in a house that belongs to some other grownup
except now I'm the grownup
(when the hell did that happen?)
Last week there was a crazy thunderstorm so John and I sat out on the porch watching the lightning as the clouds rolled by. We talked about dumb stuff and serious stuff and laughed and got tipsy on wine and listened to the sound of the rain patter-patter-pattering out in the darkness of the street.
I've dreamed about having a porch, a house, a life exactly like this one and it's so good it almost doesn't feel real.
As we watched the rain fall we saw the lights go on in the house across the street
our old house
where we lived for years through roommates
surprises, and small rituals that make everyday life so special
and slip by so fast.
Now that house belongs to other people
(good friends of ours, in fact)
and in a few weeks, months, years, it'll start to feel like that's where they've always been.
I know that's how it'll start to feel here, too
so I'm tryna hold onto this feeling of "newness" as long as I can.
- by Alyson Shane
The end of my time at 120 Lenore Street is looming, staring me in the face
One day closer.
Marching steadily towards the end of one of the best chapters in my life.
This house was where I realized that I needed to
take a leap
to leave a life where I was
comfortable, but unfulfilled
where I changed everything
turned it upside-down
to try something new
to take a chance on love
Where I did what I needed to do in order to live the richest, fullest life I could.
(And what a rich, full life it's been.)
This house is where I was afraid of growth
but did it anyway
even though it was hard.
It's where is where I faced my fears
came home to myself
put in the work
and where I've learned to say
Here is where I made memories, like
the blanket fort v 2.0
post-Folk Fest BBQs
and so many beer-fuelled late-night dance parties.
This house is where I started my business
at a little desk in the living room
with Toulouse in my lap and BJ on the desk
hammering away at my keyboard, tryna make it work
feeling hopeful and scared every morning for years.
I became friends with Alex here
put Adam to bed here
cackled with Amber here
and made more memories with the people I love than I can count.
I've been here for six and a half years and part of me still isn't ready to let go.
This house has been so good to me
and I hope I've been good to it in return
cause I'm going to miss it like hell.
- by Alyson Shane
and I just had a lil cry about it
(in a good way.)
Every time my COVID anxiety creeps up I think
"you're fully vaccinated
the people you love are
it's gonna be ok."
Aaaaaand now I'm tearing up again.
What a feeling after all this time.
- by Alyson Shane
as soon as you know you're leaving everything becomes
5000 times more annoying
(like an awkward cabinet
or a weird kitchen layout)
or 5000 times more important
(like BBQing on the deck or
standing in the spot where John asked me to be his wife)
I had a bath just now. One of the last I'll have here.
We have this huge soaker tub in the basement
with fancy jets
and though I love baths I feel like I haven't used it enough
so between now and when we take possession on our new place I'm committing myself to
at least a bath a week
which works out to five baths, minimum.
Usually I have a bath with a glass of wine
some candles, maybe incense
(because I deserve to treat myself, damn it)
and whatever book I'm reading.
It's my time.
I can turn off my brain and sink into the
familiar shapes of the words
and connect with a book in a way that's
in my always-connected-iphone-business-owner world
where I'm pulled in a million directions.
Usually my baths are my getaways
but not tonight.
I tried, believe me.
I soaked with my wine
and my candles
and my copy of
The Essential Neruda
but instead of losing myself in love poems
I kept looking around
at the bric-a-brac of my life
my extendable mirror
John's trimmer, always charging
our towels hanging off the door
the little details of our days
that always started and ended
in a bathroom where I've
puked up my guts
showered off the grime from
and hosting costume parties
never realizing that the end was
just around the corner.
That's the weird thing about moving, it seems
even when you plan for it, it still takes yr heart by surprise.
- by Alyson Shane
I needed to renew my license so I biked to an insurance agency over on Academy that does walk-in appointments to renew yr MPI license
(that's Manitoba Public Insurance for my non-Manitobans)
I wish I could say that I did this in a timely manner but actually
my license lapsed and I didn't go in to renew
because the idea of going somewhere and taking off my mask in a business
considering how Manitoba has handled this crisis
(which hasn't been great, for my non-Manitobans)
freaked me out
and since I can order in
and I don't need to drive
I avoided it
until it was required of me like it was today.
So I rode my bike a bunch
there and back
there and back again
since I had to go there twice
because of course MPI's website had to go down as I was there
which meant they couldn't print my temporary ID
(why does this always happen with time-sensitive stuff?)
so they sent me home and called me when the printer was working again.
Bike 1, 2, 3, and then 4.
But as I biked back and forth, and back and forth
this might be the most time I've spent
on my bike
altering my plans
talking to people face-to-face
in close to a year.
And as I cruised up and down Wolseley
which was 99% cyclists and runners
and families out for walks
on my way
to and from and to and from
doing something that would make me
a permanent member of this community
it made me realize
how much I've missed my neighbourhood
and how excited I am to be a permanent part of it.
(Also, we're buying a house hooray!)
- by Alyson Shane
Watering my garden every morning.
Standing in the sun
listening to a podcast
or to the birds chirping
watching our lil dirt babies grow.
The guy who walks by and ALWAYS makes a beer pun because we grow hops:
"Y'know, beer cures what ALES ya!"
"Better HOP to it you guys!"
"Those hops are gonna be LAGER than life soon!"
I love that our garden makes other people happy, too.
Toulouse's little paw on my face to wake me up in the AM.
(Okay this doesn't always make me happy
but it's cute as heck.)
Gettin' vaxxed a few weeks ago.
Then watching all my
colleagues and loved ones
getting their jabs, too
rockin' a vaccinated attitude.
My little daily workouts.
Stretching in the AM
40 dips with weights
40 squat presses with weights
60 walking lunges with weights
plus 20 pushups because I have baby arms.
Sunday night "movie dates" with Jasmin.
Spending a few hours watching a cheesy movie
making art and drinking tea
(okay sometimes wine)
chatting with a dear friend about
anything and everything, really
has become one of the highlights of my week.
Planning distanced lunch dates with Tineke.
(Even if my orders don't always arrive on time, d'oh!)
Looking at my bank account.
savings are tight
no debt in sight
(okay that last point isn't true but I can't talk about it yet.)
Talking to my parents again.
Today in "things that surprised everybody"
Mom and Dad and I are talking again
and I see the effort they're putting in
how hard they want this to work
(just like me)
and it's a wonderful new addition to my life.
The Wolseley tree canopy.
One of the things I love about living in a
is watching nature blossom back to life
transforming my neighbourhood
into a beautiful canopy of green leaves and blue sky.
The way Starling is growing.
We're hitting our stride as an agency
we have great name recognition
people value the work we do and see
what sets us apart from every other agency in town
and I'm so fucking proud of that.
Making art in my journal and being crafty.
After what feels like
decades, away from the creative part of myself
I'm rediscovering my creative side
experimenting, making weird art
not judging myself when things don't turn out "perfect"
and enjoying having a private place to explore my feels.
There have been times in my life which have felt
chaotic, stressful, and unmanageable
but right now isn't one of those times
everything feels like it's falling into place
or exactly where it should be
and I'm gonna enjoy it while it lasts.
- by Alyson Shane
to spend a week at a cabin out at Falcon Lake because we haven't gone anywhere since before Christmas.
We drove up on Monday night and stopped at Gimli Fish on the way out to get crab legs and lobster tail and the biggest scallops I've ever seen, and after unpacking and getting a fire going we sauteed it all up in a butter and garlic sauce and ate it with a salad and a bottle of rosé.
We stayed up late and got drunk and cold running back and forth from the private hot tub on the deck to the house to get more beer. I had a killer hangover the next morning but powered through 100 pages of The Count of Monte Cristo
(I'm almost 950 pages in!)
and popped an Advil so we could hike up the side of the mountain that overlooks the lake.
I haven't walked that much in months and felt it the next day. It was worth it for the view tho.
After so many months in the house it was weird to have so much space to
and spread out
and not worry about other people.
We heard some families in the other cabins and waved at a few of the staff from afar, but it was mostly just us and the deer and the birds. I loved waking up and putting fresh birdseed in the bird feeder every morning to see what kinds of birds showed up to eat.
(Did you know that bluejays aren't actually blue? Look it up!)
That night we grilled homemade burgers and had some special banana bread that put us to bed at 10 PM. I fell asleep watching Robocop (which has so many gun sounds, wow) and woke up at 7 AM feeling more rested than I have in months.
The next day walked out to an island.
It gets so cold in Manitoba that the lake freezes completely and you can walk right across the ice to a bunch of the little islands, which feels scary until you've done it a few times
(or have a few beers in you.)
The island was beautiful and scenic, but spooky too. There's a menacing beauty to the Canadian wilderness. It feels tough and rugged, like it will kill you if you let it
(which it will.)
Then we came back and played Scrabble and made out in the hot tub and I laughed until my face hurt. We got distracted and almost burnt the shit out of our homemade taquitos, but saved them in time and covered them in sour cream and the enchilada sauce I made before we left to cover up the "extra crunch".
John made breakfast every day. Egg sandwiches or scrambled eggs and breakfast sausage. One, sometimes two coffees with Jameson's. We ate sitting across the table from each other and I grinned at him like a maniac every time because after almost seven years together I'm still crazy about him.
After dinner every night we sat in the hot tub, soaking it all in. I tried as hard as I could to lock in how the cold air felt, and the way my beer tasted, and how John's hair caught in the light.
On our last day there he asked me "what are some moments you wish you could stay frozen in forever?" and because I'm cheesy and because it was true, I said
"this one, right now" and I meant it.
If I close my eyes it's almost like I'm back there and I wanna hang onto that feeling so badly.
- by Alyson Shane
that's hyperbole but only somewhat.
We're in the part of the winter where it always feels like night time and every day feels the same, and it's normally the time when I'd go on vacation somewhere warm but there's still that pesky pandemic so we're staying put and as a result every day I go from
my bed, to
the room next to it, to
the kitchen, to
the living room (maybe), back to
the room next to my bedroom,
things could be worse but the days have been slipping by in a weird way they weren't before. I've worked from home for years and kinda go into a "fugue state" around this point (which is why I take a vacation) but not even leaving for meetings or meetups is really blurring everything together.
Luckily John and I anticipated this happening so back in the fall we booked a private cabin out at Falcon Lake and we're leaving in a few weeks and the concept of, omg
leaving my house
seeing other places
sleeping in a different bed
almost doesn't feel real.
We had a lil panic the other day when we realized the cabin doesn't have wifi, which was something we should have considered but when you haven't left yr house in pretty much a year you forget about basic stuff like how cabins in rural parts of the province tend to not have great wifi
but you know what? I'M PUMPED ABOUT IT.
Pandemic aside it's been a crazy-busy year for my agency and I spend my days in meetings and working on it and then break for dinner and spend my evenings working on HeyAlfa
(which is so crazy and going to blow you away I promise)
and part of my infinite-loop-life really just comes down to working so much and I know it. It's fine to love what you do but when it's all that you do that's not healthy.
I love my work and try to find a balance but living where you work and working where you live makes things bleed together
so I'm looking forward to forcing myself to take a break
even if it's just for a few days in the middle of snowy nowhere.
- by Alyson Shane
Last night we rang in the new year from the comfort of our living room which is where we do 100% of our social interactions these days. I curled my hair and did my makeup and put on a cute outfit because even though I wasn't going anywhere I like to look cute for myself. We made a charcuterie board with meat and cheese from DeLuca's and cheersed with fancy champagne at midnight, but also chugged a couple of PBRs
(shitty beers for a shitty year)
and at 3 AM before we went to bed, we sang Auld Lang Syne.
I don't know all the words and probably won't ever learn it by heart beyond the chorus but it makes me want to cry every time I hear it. It's heavy and sad, and singing a heavy, sad song felt like the best way to say goodbye to a year that's been overwhelmingly heavy and sad.
2020 didn't turn out to be the year I wanted or expected, but looking back it could have been a hell of a lot worse. Our businesses didn't go under (and are both actually doing better than ever), we saved a ton of money because we didn't take any big trips or go to music festivals or go out like at all since March, and and I learned that (thankfully) I married the right person because there's nothing like being cooped up in the house together 24/7 to learn if someone's gonna get on yr nerves or not.
Oh, and we managed to squeeze in our wedding in Belize and a trip to Toronto and Windsor on the way home right before things started to go off a cliff.
But outside of our little bubble of "doing ok" everything else has been a hellscape and it's been stressful and upsetting to watch our provincial government totally fumble the pandemic response, see the cases spike in Manitoba and elsewhere, and be worrying constantly about friends and family members who are high-risk or who don't have the luxury of working from home throughout all of this.
Sometimes I feel guilty for getting by and for all the time the pandemic has given me to work on Starling Social and HeyAlfa. I beat myself up about stuff a lot so I've tried to channel these feelings into working like crazy and making the most of the opportunity I've been given. All this work and focusing on a post-pandemic future has given me something to focus on and look forward to in a year where distractions from the news have been welcome and much-needed.
Maybe I'm a dumb optimist but I'm hopeful for 2021. I don't want to put a label or some weird expectation on the year itself
(years are just how we mark time, not the thing that dictates what happens during that time, after all)
but hunkering down over the past year year taught me a lot about myself and I feel more, I dunno
all of the above?
What I'm trying to say is I feel like I'm in a good place and I'm excited about what the next year will bring.
On my desk next to where I work (and spend like 90% of my time these days) I have a little letterboard and I change up the sayings from time to time. Right now it's got one from the poet Robert Frost.
I've likes his work since I was a student at Garden City Collegiate and would read the words to The Road Less Travelled every day as I went up and down the stairs in the West Building. His quote on my letterboard is one of my favourites, and it's also something I've found myself saying and thinking often this past year.
Here is what it says:
"The best way out is always through."
Whatever 2020 was like for you, I hope 2021 is even better. For all of us.
Cheers to the year ahead, friends.